By 2001 The Metro Praise Orchestra was becoming known on the local circuit. Following 9/11 when the MPO added patriotic music to its fare – and as churches began to discontinue Sunday evening services – the band began to branch into the secular community. Because many MPO members were educators the MPO accepted many invitations to support school booster organizations.
As high school students were exposed to the MPO the flood gates opened and student applications to join the semi-pro group began to pour in.
In response, MPO founder Gary Phillips launched a pilot youth program, hiring Brookhaven College director and jazz drummer Keith Umbach to get the group off the ground.
The pilot was a success and in 2011, with a grant from the Arts Council of NE Tarrant County, Phillips officially launched the MPYO. The program would be highlighted by an all star personnel lineup, cool gigs, master classes and workshops, recording sessions and events.
Six Flags Over Texas hosted the group those first two summers, and invited them back to do a Christmas performance, and so we added an accelerated ‘short session’ during the Christmas holidays.
In summer 2013, we moved to three rehearsals a week, and UNT One O’clock alumnus Justin Pierce joined the MPYO faculty. The band also enlisted college interns from UTA, TCU and UNT. We are very proud of the interns who helped make our program successful, and you can read more about them on our alumni page.
The talent level spiked and we picked up more All State Band members each year. By 2014 nearly a third of the group’s players were All Staters.
The MPYO was playing at Six Flags, Hawaiian Falls, Mountasia Family Fun Center and The Farmers Market. We also did recording sessions and formal concerts in our rehearsal venue.
By 2014 it was time to do a community performance so we brought in trumpet sensation Mike Williams from the Count Basie Orchestra.
Guest artist visits were popular among MPYO students, so we brought in more.
The faculty from Tarrant County College partnered with us to offer master classes and clinics on the All State Jazz etudes. The efforts were paying off, as multiple members of the MPYO were making All Region Jazz ensembles. In fact, this organization has been represented in All State ensembles every year since 2011. Five members of the 2013 and the 2014 All State Jazz Bands were MPYO kids. Several others qualified for All State symphonic ensembles.
By 2016 we had enjoyed clinicians from Stan Kenton, Buddy Rich, Maynard Ferguson, Count Basie, and the UNT One O’clock, and Blood Sweat & Tears.
Guest artists included Edwin Parker, Mario, Casanova, Wycliffe Gordon, Mike Vax, Mike Williams, the UNT U-Tubes; as well as Mario Cruz and Curt Wilson.
By 2015 we had enough activity to form a second band, and since so much of our activity was in Keller it made sense to name our second ensemble for its hometown. Read more about the Keller Area Youth Jazz Orchestra on that page.